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Why the Boston Globe endorsed 12 ways for 12 voter types

Bina Venkataraman is the editorial page editor at the Boston Globe

The Boston Globe endorsed Joe Biden for president. But unlike previous years, the editorial board made 12 cases for 12 different types of voters in an interactive project that ran with its traditional editorial.

We reached out to Bina Venkataraman, editorial page editor at the Boston Globe, to learn how they produced the project and the response.

What was the inspiration behind the interactive endorsement as opposed to a traditional editorial?   

Venkataraman: We took the approach of both writing a traditional editorial — invoking the tradition of being a president to all Americans started by Thomas Jefferson after the hotly-contested 1800 election — and creating an interactive endorsement that made 12 cases for 12 different voters. We wanted to offer something that readers and voters could scan quickly on their phones based on their priorities and share with family members and friends, at a time where we are being inundated by political news and virtually no one has much of an attention span. And we also wanted to have fun with our endorsement as a board and do something creative that we hadn’t done before. We knew that our readers wouldn’t be surprised about our choice, given that the Globe editorial board has been highly critical of the corruption and catastrophic policy decisions of President Trump.  But we thought perhaps we could offer something inventive and useful to them, that maybe they would not get elsewhere, in such a critical election year. 

How did you decide on the types of voters to include? 

Venkataraman: We focused on trying to reach the kinds of people we thought might be undecided or reluctant or hesitant to vote in this election — whether they had supported Trump or Bernie in the past or whether they were religious or military veterans accustomed to voting Republican but finding themselves at odds with this White House, or whether they were focused on social justice and immigration but unclear where Biden stood on those issues. And because of the Globe’s large readership in New England, we also chose to focus on people who live in a critical swing state, New Hampshire. 

What was your process for selecting which issues to highlight in each voter category?

Venkataraman: I assigned voter types to various members of the editorial board and they researched and came up with key points; editors refined those points. The idea was to distill the most powerful reasons, not to boil the ocean by building a large case that would lose people’s attention.  

Who worked on the project?

Venkataraman: Virtually the entire Globe editorial board contributed in some way. Data journalist Andrew Nguyen and senior web producer Abbi Matheson created the interactive presentation online. Our page designer Lesley Becker made our print pages pop. We also had some wonderful illustrators work on the project, a brother-sister duo named Peter and Maria Hoey.

What has the reaction been like so far? 

Venkataraman: It’s been gratifying to see how many people appreciate the project, and especially value the 12 voter cases. Several readers have already told us about sending the project or individual cases to people they want to persuade to vote for Biden. For an endorsement that we didn’t expect to surprise anyone per se, it’s been having a wide impact because of its structure and its content. It’s also been lovely to hear from media columnists and journalist colleagues at other publications who are recognizing the effort as unique.

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